My Message To The So-Called ‘Religious Feminists’

Author’s note: This article is dedicated to the brave women in Iran and their campaign ‘My Stealthy Freedom’.

Recently, there has been a wave of feminism surging through most Indians. Many Indian women have been voicing their opinions on various platforms. Among these people are also the Muslim feminists and the Hindu feminists, who propagate the idea that wearing the hijab and burqa is their choice, that Islam or Hinduism is the most feminist religion. My piece is dedicated to these so-called ‘religious feminists’.

The first argument I read most often is that one chooses to wear the hijab or burqa, and that they are not forced to wear it. But, in my opinion, this argument is completely flawed. First of all, when you advocate wearing a hijab or a burqa, you forget that there are millions of women out there who do not get to make the choice to remove it. A girl in Uttar Pradesh was murdered by her own father for not wearing the hijab; women in Iran are striving to get the compulsory hijab law repealed;  many women burnt their burqas after they were released from the captivity of ISIS; the Muslim women conferences talk about removing burqas and hijabs. If the burqa represents feminism, why would the emancipated women remove it in the first place?

My second point is that feminism is about realising the toxic ideologies and stereotypes against women and fighting these ideologies. The ideology behind the burqa, in my opinion, is one such toxic ideology. It was made because men couldn’t control themselves and also because they wanted women to be subordinated to men. They couldn’t digest the fact that women should be free. But what angers me more is seeing so-called ‘feminists’ propagate this 6th century ideology. It’s like considering flying as a disease, if you can’t do so.

The third and the most pivotal argument that I get is that it is necessary for one’s modesty as the Quran asks people to dress modestly. Now, modesty is a very subjective term, and its parameters can be different for different persons. For some, a strand of hair coming out of your hijab can be immodest, while for some, even wearing shorts can be modest. It is up to the male mindset to define how they see you – your clothes can’t manipulate their thoughts.

And to those who say that these clothes save them from inappropriate gazes, I believe you should come out of your bubble and see the real world. Women in Islamic countries are often shamed if they report rape – or worse, they are forced to marry their rapists, like in Lebanon (though the law has now been repealed). In some cases, they can be stoned too.

Also, to those women who say that one prefers a wrapped candy over an unwrapped one, I would like to convey to them to not reduce us to ₹5 candies which are easily available to men for consumption. We aren’t objects that need to be covered for sale.

The fourth argument that I despise is that Islam is the most ‘feminist religion’. Actually yes, it’s the most feminist religion – one which allows husbands to beat their wives mildly if they do not obey their husband’s orders; where the testimony of one man is equal to that of four women; where women are expected to cover themselves up all the time while men have no such restrictions. If this is what you think feminism is, then I am sorry to say you need to look up the definition of feminism.

All things considered, I would like to say that no religion is feminist. From the Manusmriti propagating, “dhol gawar shudra pashu naari/ sakal taran ke adhikari (a drum, a rustic, a shudra and a woman need to be kept in control and the way is to beat them)” to evicting a pregnant wife out of the house and being made to do a virginity test in Ramayana, to losing your wife in gambling in Mahabharata – no religion can be feminist. The women who call themselves ‘religious feminists’ should realise that they are just sailing in two ships, and that they can either be religious or feminist.